Perhaps surprisingly candidates may overlook the importance of effective pre-interview planning.
Very often a candidate will focus on interview technique and performance in the interview itself. Few people would fail to prepare for an important client meeting or Board presentation and the next job interview might change the course of your life! So it’s just as important.
What should you do to prepare for the interview?
1. Check the interview details: virtual or physical.
Make sure you are clear on details of the virtual call and have checked the technology and the venue (e.g. your desk or the kitchen table!). If a face to face meeting check the route and address as many employers have multiple locations, often in close proximity to each other. Plan how to get there.
2. Find out the name and job title of the interviewer.
Do some research to see if you can find out anything about them. Consider their motivations in order to seek areas of empathy and your selling proposition. Do you have contacts or a network in common?
3. Job specification.
If you don’t have one call or email the interviewer or their PA and ask them to send one. No potential employer would view this negatively! Alternatively, a good recruiter should be able to brief you on the role if you are applying via an executive search firm or agency and may be able to send you one.
4. Research the company.
There is no excuse for not being really well briefed here. Go through the relevant sections of their website in detail. Case studies can be very informative and allow you to think of comparable projects to reference in the meeting with your role and experience. In addition to their own website, look at LinkedIn and also make sure you are up to date with recent financial results, recent wins, senior hires etc. If you don’t know much about them it suggests a lack of interest and makes it much more difficult for you to identify what aspects of your skills and profile are most likely to strike a chord with the interviewer. Interviewers are prone to flattery like the rest of us and are invariably pleased that someone has taken the trouble to do some research. Or unimpressed if you haven’t!
5. Research the company’s brand and values.
These should be readily apparent from the website. How do your values align with those of the company? Also, consider how you might be able to demonstrate this during the interview.
6. What do you like about the company and role?
Give some thought to what appeals to you and makes you keen on this opportunity. This is a common interview question. Employers are often looking for an extra level of enthusiasm: they like “volunteers, not conscripts”. The term “passionate” is a cliché these days and a word to avoid but is one that reflects the requirement to show enthusiasm.
7. What do you think the interviewer is most likely to be looking for in a candidate?
If you have the job spec review the requirements and ensure you can answer potential questions. What specific, concrete examples can you give of your suitability? Relate these to experience e.g. specific knowledge of a sector, sales in a specific market etc. Alternatively relate your examples to a trait or competency e.g. “communication skills”, “enthusiasm” “track record of success”. Even if you are not specifically asked for examples of how you can demonstrate those you should still have in mind the interviewer will be evaluating you in relation to them.
8. Prepare for a competency-based interview.
You may not be told in advance but this is quite a specific form of an interview that requires research and preparation. This will involve being asked for detailed examples of your approach and behaviour in specific types of situation. Even if the interview is not purely ‘competency-based’ this is useful preparation for evaluation of your own strengths.
9. Review your CV and anticipate “obvious” questions.
There are many guides to interview questions so we won’t cover that here but the most basic is: why you left or joined employers, why you are moving jobs now, what you are looking for, why have you applied for this job? etc. Look at your CV and consider areas that might be probed. Think through how your answers might sound if you were the interviewer. Make sure your reasons for looking for a role now “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative” as far as possible and do not appear to conflict with the role and employer you are interviewing with. Indeed, leave the employer with the impression that there is a close match between what they is offering and you are seeking – but don’t be too obvious about it. Don’t be caught out by questions around your salary and package: you might, for example, not consider it appropriate at 1st interview….but they could!
10. What information do you want to get from the meeting?
Consider what you will need to know to make an informed decision if you are made an offer. How might this translate into constructive, intelligent questions?
For a virtual meeting have your CV readily available and offer to send them it in case they don’t have the current version or the carefully tailored one…For a face to face print two copies of your CV. The interviewer may have been supplied with an old one or one that does not outline your experience as it applies to the role you are interviewing for, especially if you’ve only seen the detailed job spec after applying.
As ever, psychology is all-important and a useful question to have at the back of your mind is “if I were the interviewer what would impress me?”.
Even if you are not 100% sure about the role or the company it is most important you approach the preparation, and the interview itself, with the objective of getting to the next stage. If you decide halfway through the interview, or afterwards, that it’s a more exciting prospect than you expected, it’s too late!
Prism Executive Recruitment specialises in consultant recruitment and related business transformation jobs, working for consultancy employers, IT services firms and corporates. We aim to build long-term relationships with candidates. For more information, please visit out candidate services page.
Our candidate guides provide information on a range of topics to help you prepare for your job search and the interview process.